Further to “The Case for Reparations”

Jennifer Vanasco, in the Columbia Journalism Review:

The reparations piece has broken readership records on The Atlantic’s website. When asked why, Coates said, “Racism sets people’s hair on fire,” whatever side of the political spectrum they fall on…

Coates’ case is actually not just about reparations, though that’s how the article is framed. It’s also about what he calls the “willful thickheadedness” that Americans—all Americans, not just white people—have about race relations in the United States. In Coates’ view, slavery is inseparable from the establishment of American democracy. It was slaves and their work developing the cotton crop that powered America’s economic engine and enabled it to become an independent country. “If you don’t know black history, it’s impossible for you to understand America,” he said. “That history is torture, rape, maiming—and it didn’t end” after slavery was abolished. There was lynching, he said, and then “government policies that ensured black people stayed in certain areas; basically, reservations.”…

.

Jelani Cobb, in the New Yorker, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Reparations“:

The unspoken divide between black people and white people—whether over reparations, affirmative action, or the question of paying N.C.A.A. athletes—comes down to a question of history. In one version, that history appears as an incremental movement toward equality after a long night of discrimination; in the other, history looks like a balance sheet, and the cumulative debits of sanctioned theft, enforced poverty, and scant opportunity far outweigh the inconsistent credits of good will. Few whites recall, for instance, that General William Sherman, during his March to the Sea, issued orders mandating the redistribution of land seized from Confederates, in forty-acre parcels, to newly emancipated black families. But within black America, that fact—and the fact that the orders were revoked following Lincoln’s assassination—is common knowledge, recalled with the bitterness of an outstanding debt.

Absent an understanding of this past, it’s possible—even entirely reasonable—to conclude that affirmative action represents a full recompense for the social engineering that produced a disproportionately black underclass in the United States. To the extent that the history remains obscured, the narrative looks like a lineage of failed handouts to a feckless and troublesome population, never quite capable of pulling themselves up, and mired in their own self-defeating ways. These deletions in our own history deliver various national oddities, like an overwhelmingly white Tea Party movement that is fixated on government encroachment on liberty and yet has almost no regard for the concerns of African-Americans, whose history is defined by the government-sanctioned theft of their freedom…

The battles of the civil-rights movement were enormously contentious and divisive until they began to achieve victories; at that point, they became a useful means of allowing the country to forget its complicity in the state of affairs that had made the movement necessary in the first place. We know, or ought to know, how this story invariably ends. It’s worth recalling that Lincoln, in his initial draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, sought the repatriation of the freed slaves—thus rewarding black people who had helped save the Union with exile, while granting continued residence to the Confederates who tried to overthrow the government. In 2005, the United States Senate offered an apology for the decades during which it did nothing to halt the tide of lynchings that claimed the lives of nearly thirty-four hundred black people between 1880 and 1920. Yet that apology—which was tied directly to government inaction that facilitated terrorism directed at a subject population—was not accompanied by any order for compensation to the descendants of those victims. Once again, the point was not contrition, merely the appearance of it…

The point of Coates’s essay—and, ultimately, the point of this conversation, despite the political impossibility of enacting reparations—is a broader understanding of black poverty as the product of public policy and private theft facilitated by racism. The belief that blacks have been given too much is made possible by the refusal to countenance how much was actually taken away in the first place.

Here’s Bill Moyers’ interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates:

64 replies
  1. 1
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    One of the infuriating things about this issue arising from Coates’ piece is how people insist how they can’t talk about this shit unless an actual price tag is put on it. It seems like an entirely backwards thing in all honesty for one reason: It’s near-impossible to decide on how to fix a problem when you can’t even get agreement that there is/was a problem to be fixed to begin with.

  2. 2
    Ruckus says:

    Ta Nehisi Coates is one of this nations great writers.

  3. 3
    Laertes says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik:

    It seems like an entirely backwards thing

    I agree. It’s a transparently dishonest dodge. Arriving at a number is a very late step in the process, but since these people don’t want to take even the first step, they look down the road to the very first step that seems like an insurmountable obstacle and then insist that it’s a good reason to skip the whole trip.

    That article is deeply uncomfortable for people who’ve built their sense of entitlement upon the principle that since they never personally owned slaves, they haven’t benefited from the systemic plunder of black people. Take away their first excuse for looking away and they’ll show you their second soon enough.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    This is the first time I have come across the balance sheet analogy. I think it works quite well. Especially if you look at it over the whole history of the country. Even if we get to the point of being in the “black” on racial matters in any given year (something I think we are still far from achieving), we will still have years of back debt looming out there. It’s like the national debt vs. budget deficit issue – except contra Dick Cheney deficits do matter.

    Anyway, those are my muddled thoughts on the matter.

  6. 6
    mainmata says:

    Coates is, of course, eminently correct that a knowledge of factual history is essential to understanding racism and the extensive human waste and distortion to the fundamental structure of the nation. But that’s the point, the average American does not know – or care – about even the most elementary facts of this country or even what happened a year ago. This is especially the case for the so-called conservatives.

  7. 7
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    That article is deeply uncomfortable for people who’ve built their sense of entitlement upon the principle that since they never personally owned slaves, they haven’t benefited from the systemic plunder of black people.

    “Trying to visit the sins of the father on the son” is how I saw multiple wingnuts put it as they did everything they could to dodge actual discussion of the issue (after lobbing a few “don’t Obamaphones count as reparations?”-style failbombs). Wingnuts are afraid of an awful lot of things in this world, but any sort of discussion of race might be the thing that terrifies them the most.

  8. 8
    🌷 Martin says:

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

  9. 9
    Anoniminous says:

    “I don’t know whether Asimov realized he was saying this as well, but as an old historical materialist, if only as an afterthought, he must have realized that he was saying too: No one here will ever look at you, read a word you write, or consider you in any situation, no matter whether the roof is falling in or the money is pouring in, without saying to him – or herself – (whether in an attempt to count it or to discount it), ‘Negro…’ The racial situation, permeable as it might sometimes seem (and it is, yes, highly permeable), is nevertheless your total surround. Don’t you ever forget it…! And I never have.” ― Samuel R. Delany

    I suspect black folks would forego reparations if white folks would just …

    Stop. That. Shit.

    (But what do I know.)

  10. 10
    D58826 says:

    Few whites recall, for instance, that General William Sherman, during his March to the Sea, issued orders mandating the redistribution of land seized from Confederates, in forty-acre parcels, to newly emancipated black families. But within black America, that fact—and the fact that the orders were revoked following Lincoln’s assassination—is common knowledge, recalled with the bitterness of an outstanding debt.

    I suspect that most white Americans never even learned about that. I seem to remember reading about it recently in a book that was a long history of the war in the west. However that is the kind of detail that you have to search for if you have an interest in history. It certainly wasn’t in my high school history book. Similarly how social security and the GI bill were titled to exclude African Americans. There is a book on white affirmative action that goes into detail but again you have to hunt for it

  11. 11
    BethanyAnne says:

    The reparations piece motivated me to finally subscribe to The Atlantic.

  12. 12
    Laertes says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:

    “Trying to visit the sins of the father on the son” is how I saw multiple wingnuts put it as they did everything they could to dodge actual discussion of the issue

    Shoot back with “receiving stolen goods.” If my dad stole stuff from your dad and gave it to me, and you can prove it, you get it back. I can whine all day long about how I wasn’t the thief, but it doesn’t matter.

    That’s what privilege is: Stolen goods. That line along the western edge of North Lawndale? I was born just on the lucky side of it. And more than anything else I’ve ever read, TNC’s article has made me understand just how much wealth and opportunity was siphoned from the kids born just a bit to the East to those of us born just to the West.

  13. 13
    TG Chicago says:

    I’ve always wondered how Conservatives answer this question: Why is it that black people are overrepresented in poverty?

    To me, it’s simple: it’s the lingering, persistent after-effect of slavery and subsequent racism.

    They would surely disagree with that, but what is their answer?

    I imagine it would be something like “The Democrats encouraged dependency among black Americans with their handouts blah blah blah”. But to me, that sounds like a slightly-less-overtly-racist way of saying “blacks are lazy”.

    I mean really, the only two answers are that something has been done to hold the black populace down or that there is something inherent about black people that makes them more prone to poverty. The latter is essentially the definition of racism, so they would hesitate to say that (I assume).

    So they’re left with the notion that the black population was harmed more by welfare and affirmative action than they were by slavery, jim crow, lynching, redlining, civil rights violations, etc etc. That’s what they actually tell themselves. Quite a mythology they’ve set up for themselves.

  14. 14
    Anoniminous says:

    @D58826:

    There are a lot of ironies, along several different axis, in the fire with respect to Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15.

  15. 15
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @TG Chicago:

    The latter is essentially the definition of racism, so they would hesitate to say that (I assume).

    Don’t assume. There are plenty of people who are willing to go there.

  16. 16
    danimal says:

    I am so impressed with the narrative Coates develops in The Case for Reparations. I don’t pretend that actual checks are ever actually going to be written as reparations, but if even 10 percent of white conservatives wrestle with race with new eyes and an increased empathy for the black experience, his article could help to move mountains.

    And I do believe that 10 percent are reachable, too.

  17. 17
    Ash Can says:

    @Ruckus: I would call him one of the nation’s greatest voices. What he’s contributing to our society transcends mere writing. But then, I’m sure that this was your basic idea in the first place.

  18. 18
    grondo says:

    But isn’t “putting a price tag on it” the point? I mean, eliminate that element, and all you’re left with is an intense, national dinner party conversation. And if you do put a price tag on it, how much should it be? And does the payment of such signal and resolution to the conversation? And if it doesn’t close the subject, then what’s the point of doing it again if it remains a national sore spot? or is the idea of reparations just a cudgel?

  19. 19
    jayjaybear says:

    @TG Chicago: Don’t bet on them hesitating to say that. We have the Bell Curve, race “realists”, “scientific” racism, etc. There’s not nearly enough shame or embarrassment at holding these type of ideas as there would be in an ideal world.

    And the whole shebang gets escalated to Threat Level INFRARED when the discussion turns to any kind of societal responsibility. “I DIDN’T DO IT!” “I don’t have any kind of privilege…I’m poor!” Blahblahblah…the discussion CANNOT take place because the majority refuse to even consider the possibility of the discussion taking place.

  20. 20
    TG Chicago says:

    @grondo:

    But isn’t “putting a price tag on it” the point? I mean, eliminate that element, and all you’re left with is an intense, national dinner party conversation. And if you do put a price tag on it, how much should it be?

    If you have a car and you want to get it insured, you need to find the value of the car. In order to do so, many questions must be asked and answered.

    If you go to an insurance company and ask them to insure your car before they’ve had a chance to ask any questions about the car, they will not be able to give you a price quote.

    Asking “how much should it be?” without having examined the issue carefully is just as silly as asking a company to insure your car without telling them anything about the car.

  21. 21
    Morzer (0th of His PseudoName and Founder of the Walter Sobchak Peacekeepers) says:

    @grondo:

    I don’t know how to put a price tag on reparations, much less who would pay and who wouldn’t and so on and so forth, but I do believe that affirmative action was and must be part of reparations, because reparations that don’t involve a radical and lasting socio-economic transformation aren’t going to be real reparations, but just a quick payment to get the issue off the table while everything remains fundamentally as it was. There’s a reason why so many good, respectable, conservative, totally non-racist white folk are trying to destroy any form of affirmative action by claiming to be the real victims – and that reason is that they sense that affirmative action does in fact have some real impact.

  22. 22
    Laertes says:

    @grondo:

    But isn’t “putting a price tag on it” the point?

    I’m not sure that it is, and having read the piece with some care, I’m not sure that TNC thinks it is either.

    You suggest that it’s pointless to take inventory of the crimes if at the outset there’s no obvious way to move from there to paying the bill. That’s one point of view. For another, I’d look to the victims. TNC makes a pretty strong case that there are plenty of them walking among us today, and not just staring out of the pages of history books.

  23. 23
    Ruckus says:

    @Ash Can:
    Yes.

  24. 24
    Ruckus says:

    @danimal:
    I’m not sure that Mr. Coates thinks they will be paid either. And I’m not sure but I think the point is that we must have the conversation. All of us. And we must at some point get past the history of racism in this country. We can not do that without honestly looking at the history and current events. Sweeping the issue under the rug hasn’t worked, and will not start working any time soon.

    Some people ask what it will cost. It will cost whites their privilege. That’s the cost. This is something that money may take the sting out of a little bit, but money doesn’t solve the issue.
    The cost is white privilege.

  25. 25
    Spinoza Is My Co-pilot says:

    @TG Chicago:

    the only two answers are that something has been done to hold the black populace down or that there is something inherent about black people that makes them more prone to poverty. The latter is essentially the definition of racism, so they would hesitate to say that (I assume).

    They only “hesitate to say that” when they believe they are in “mixed company” of some sort, and sometimes not even then.

    Otherwise they let their racist freak flags fly. It’s exactly what our modern homegrown fascists believe, though many of their official spokespeople have learned to dogwhistle quite well in the manner famously described by Lee Atwater.

    If you don’t have much private contact with garden-variety fascist foot-soldiers (as I do living and working with so many here in Joe Arpaio County, AZ) then reading the comment section of, say, Free Republic or Red State would quickly demonstrate how racism and modern movement conservatism are inextricably entwined, down to the most grassroots level.

    Great article by Coates in the Atlantic, but I am still not subscribing (as I had once upon a time for about 20 years or so). That once-excellent periodical has not yet recovered from the execrable Mike Kelly.

  26. 26
    Morzer (0th of His PseudoName and Founder of the Walter Sobchak Peacekeepers) says:

    @Spinoza Is My Co-pilot:

    There was a very interesting article recently by Randall Balmer that made the case that it was racism (specifically school segregation) that swung evangelicals into being politically active, not abortion.

    http://www.politico.com/magazi.....40IW_ldVhM

  27. 27
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Spinoza Is My Co-pilot: Christ, I had forgotten that Kelly was a terrible influence at both TNR and The Atlantic.

  28. 28
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I read through the online version of “The Case for Reparations” rather quickly, but it was enough to make me realize I wanted to own this terrific document, to keep it in some permanent form so I could revisit it whenever I wanted/needed to. So I went to B&N and bought a copy of The Atlantic a couple of days ago and read the whole thing again. It’s really quite extraordinary: I expect I’ll be discovering new insights with each re-read. What a writer.

  29. 29
    Anoniminous says:

    Set reparations at a nice round $1,000,000,000,000. According to the 2010 census there are 223,553,265 white people in American. So take $1,000,000,000,000 and divide by 223,553,265 to get the cost per white person which is …. nothing. Zero. Goose egg. Not A Cent.

    Why? Because the US Federal Government has the ability to magic money into existence with the push of a keyboard.

    Spread that $1,000,000,000,000 over 20 years and into things like education, urban infrastructure, urban housing, rural housing, rural economic development programs, job training, targeted small business loans, Public Health, etc. etc. and it would rebound to the benefit of all Americans. Because the US is effectively throwing 38,929,319 or ~13% of our total population into a trash can meaning the loss of doctors, scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, middle management, skilled workers, & blah, blah and the innovation, productivity, and wealth they would create.

    That it would be Just makes it a two-fer.

  30. 30
    beltane says:

    @Morzer (0th of His PseudoName and Founder of the Walter Sobchak Peacekeepers): I read that article and found the argument to be very subversive. If the fundies are truly passionate about the abortion issue at all, is is because they fear the consequences of a white babbie shortage. It’s not that unusual to hear right-wingers complaining that white women do not have enough children these days. Without racism, the Republican party would consist of a few hundred plutocrats, their paid retainers, and a small cadre of masochists. There would not be enough of them to win elections any place in the country.

  31. 31
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I think this is pretty on-topic: I finally got around to seeing Belle today, a month after nationwide release. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do. It’s set during a time that was an important point in the abolition movement, and is really beautifully produced and acted. Still in theatres (although I admit I was there today during a Monday afternoon matinee screening and was one of three people in the plex, the other two of whom seemed to think they were watching TV at home and could chatter and comment away to their hearts’ content, fuck them very much) and I enjoyed seeing it on the big screen, though I’ll certainly buy or order the DVD when it comes available. Recommended for BJers.

  32. 32
    danimal says:

    @Ruckus: I agree. I think the value of respect, empathy and the end of their goddamned condescension, as well as the acknowledgement and destruction of existing and past legal/social/economic barriers to success are much more valuable than simply cutting a check.

    .

  33. 33
    🌷 Martin says:

    @TG Chicago:

    They would surely disagree with that, but what is their answer?

    That black people are collectively inferior. A black person may not be, so they’re cool with Carson, and West, and Condi, etc. but collectively, culturally, socially they are inferior. They come right out and say it all the damn time.

  34. 34
    Morzer (0th of His PseudoName and Founder of the Walter Sobchak Peacekeepers) says:

    @beltane:

    I am pretty sure that’s the impetus for the Quiverfull movement.

  35. 35
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @🌷 Martin: Hell, we get the occasional allegedly left of center person around here saying the same thing.

  36. 36
    Anoniminous says:

    @Ruckus:

    The cost is white privilege.

    True.

    And so what?

    White privilege is, in the final analysis, costly to both blacks and whites. Obviously way more so for the former rather than the latter. Reparations would mean Mississippi, for example, would stop being the shitpile of the nation, bettering the lot of black and white Mississippians.

  37. 37
    Kylroy says:

    @Ruckus: “Some people ask what it will cost. It will cost whites their privilege. That’s the cost.”

    And white people, still projected to make up the majority of this country until 2042, will support this because…?

  38. 38
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @TG Chicago:

    So they’re left with the notion that the black population was harmed more by welfare and affirmative action than they were by slavery, jim crow, lynching, redlining, civil rights violations, etc etc. That’s what they actually tell themselves. Quite a mythology they’ve set up for themselves.

    I had an interesting exchange last week with a conservative over that very issue. He said it was a “strawman” to say conservatives believe it. I started pressing him on the matter: “So that’s not what conservatives believe? What to make of conservatives’ fixation on black people receiving welfare, then, especially in light of the fact that most welfare goes to rural whites?” And around and around he went, not wanting to accept that conservatives believe that liberals have trapped blacks on “the plantation of welfare” and/or are “buying their votes with welfare benefits,” but not decrying those notions, either. Basically, he was left trying to argue that the notion of black people suffering more under the “slavery” of welfare than they did under actual slavery (and Jim Crow and all that other stuff) is indeed what conservatives believe because it’s true, stupid libtard…but he doesn’t want to actually say so because that would be unseemly and racist.

  39. 39
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Kylroy: Enlightened self-interest.

  40. 40
    Kylroy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): What self-interest? White privilege provides tangible benefits to white people across the country. In return for giving that up, they get…gratitude? The approval of a very talented writer? What?

  41. 41
    tybee says:

    wonder what stealing a continent and wiping out its inhabitants is worth?

  42. 42
    Kylroy says:

    @Anoniminous: And Reconstruction meant lots of white backwoods people in the South were getting exposed to education for the first time, and being shown what their country and the wider world could offer them.

    And they *still* threw it out in favor of being able to brutalize black people. Whatever white privilege costs white people, they are clearly eager to pay it.

  43. 43
    Kylroy says:

    @tybee: Yeah. Or what Britain and the Netherlands would owe Africa. Or Japan would owe China. Or Russia would owe the entire Eastern Bloc.

    There are lots of horribly skewed balance sheets out there, and I don’t see any of them ever getting settled.

  44. 44
    beltane says:

    @Kylroy: Of course their willing to pay it. The biggest fear many (most?) white Americans have is that they will one day be treated as they have always treated everyone else.

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): Enlightened self-interest requires long term thinking. Try it.

  46. 46
    Morzer (0th of His PseudoName and Founder of the Walter Sobchak Peacekeepers) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):

    That’s some pretty stern talking to yourself.

  47. 47
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Morzer (0th of His PseudoName and Founder of the Walter Sobchak Peacekeepers): God damn it. Fucked up the replay, didn’t I? But I probably deserved the lecture anyway,

  48. 48
    Ruckus says:

    @Kylroy:
    Oh a good portion won’t, the rest already try to.
    But asking this is akin to first asking the price. Without the rest of it we are still at ground zero. Or akin to saying, “It won’t work no use trying at all.”

  49. 49
    Morzer (0th of His PseudoName and Founder of the Walter Sobchak Peacekeepers) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):

    Just think of all those bipartisanship points you earned by standing up to your own party!

  50. 50
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):
    I’m not sure that’s a given characteristic here.

  51. 51
    WaterGirl says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Thank you for doing your part and not shooting the annoying talkers at the movie theater.

  52. 52
    Laertes says:

    @Kylroy:

    And white people, still projected to make up the majority of this country until 2042, will support this because…?

    I’d vote for it, and I’m white. I guess it’d be fun to flatter myself and imagine that I’m the most virtuous white person around and that nobody else of my hue would ever put justice ahead of narrowly-construed self-interest, but that would be pretty dishonest, don’t you think?

  53. 53
  54. 54
    RSA says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:

    “Trying to visit the sins of the father on the son” is how I saw multiple wingnuts put it as they did everything they could to dodge actual discussion of the issue

    Some conservatives I’ve talked with seem to think that once Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act become law, the playing field was immediately leveled. And talk about “what we have done for them” is not unusual.

  55. 55
    Morzer (0th of His PseudoName and Founder of the Walter Sobchak Peacekeepers) says:

    @WaterGirl:

    He was his own Sister Souljah moment. Not many people can say that.

  56. 56
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Kylroy:

    It depends on how you define “self-interest.” I have a mixed-race niece and nephew. So is it in my self-interest to help minorities like my niece and nephew, or is it in my self-interest to help white people who are not related to me?

  57. 57
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Kylroy:

    Or, to put it another way, either I can support policies that will help my niece and nephew — actual members of my family — or I can support policies that will help white people who are not related to me. Which of those is in my self-interest?

  58. 58
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Morzer (0th of His PseudoName and Founder of the Walter Sobchak Peacekeepers): I didn’t listen though. I know how full of shit I am.

  59. 59

    @Mnemosyne: …aaaand that is why miscegenation was a crime in 12 states until 1967.

    There’s actually an interesting policy question in there. Would reparations take a form that offers shares or payouts based on individuals and their specific ancestors’ specific injuries under slavery, segregation and housing discrimination?

    If not, but instead offered as a group remedy, do children of A-A or mixed heritage qualify as group members–regardless of whether they personally have also benefited from a ‘white side’ of their (bio or adoptive) families?*

    Because there is no tribe to register members, who qualifies is the most complex aspect to reparations. After that it’s just math.

    *for reasons obvious to those who know me, I’ve been thinking about this a bit. My child has every material thing that her parents’ inherited white privilege can buy her. Yet she is still subject to racial discrimination based on her own appearance. There’s a way in which white adoptive families offer an informal set of experimental data showing when and how the effects of being part of the oppressed caste are happening, vs the effects of one’s particular circumstances. Kieran Romney may be able to contribute to the literature yet!

  60. 60
    Anne Laurie says:

    @beltane:

    It’s not that unusual to hear right-wingers complaining that white women do not have enough children these days.

    … And during the first Gilded Age, the finest minds and most respected men of the day — President Teddy Roosevelt, for instance — demanded that “Harvard men” start marrying younger and having more children, for fear of being out-bred by the ignorant Irish immigrants who were popping out paupers at a fearsome rate.

    Going back even further, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin complained that letting filthy illiterate German immigrants into his nice new clean nation would set a bad precedent, since their numerous non-English-speaking offspring were bound to be a heavy charge upon the community.

    So today, the descendents of those Irish paupers — like Sean Hannity — and those German refugees — like Rush Limbaugh — get to sit on their well-paid, well-padded arses and complain that “the Negro” and “the Mexican” are polluting America’s precious bodily fluids.

    It’s not the ‘one thing after another’ that depresses me, it’s the ‘same damned thing over and over again’

  61. 61
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik:

    people insist how they can’t talk about this shit unless an actual price tag is put on it.

    No need to talk in terms of prices, talk in terms of processes. Extend the exact same terms that were available to white people in the 1930s and 1950s and 1970s to build wealth: mortgages, tuition.

    @Anne Laurie:

    today, the descendents of those Irish paupers — like Sean Hannity — and those German refugees — like Rush Limbaugh — get to sit on their well-paid, well-padded arses

    As I said back when the piece was published, the US has been very good at turning poor white people into property-owning white citizens through government intervention, in different forms across different eras. Somewhere up the family tree, a Hannity or a Limbaugh got eased into property ownership, which creates something to draw upon and something to pass down.

  62. 62
    wenchacha says:

    I have yet to read TNC’s piece, but this thread is telling me I must change that. I am happy that there are people talking about this. If we all could find some way to communicate that didn’t end in a shouting match like those that erupt on CNN et al.

    Plenty of white Americans have ancestors who endured very hard times.That can be true and still not be equal to the hardships faced by people who had only recently been in slavery for several generations.

    We have such infinitesimally short memories, as a nation. Except when it comes to grudges. So much time and talent has been wasted. And we make some of the same mistakes over and over again.

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    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @RSA:

    Some conservatives I’ve talked with seem to think that once Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act become law, the playing field was immediately leveled. And talk about “what we have done for them” is not unusual.

    Oh yeah. If they really get going, they’ll start demanding credit for ending slavery (while accepting none of the blame for, you know, perpetrating slavery).

  64. 64
    Paul in KY says:

    @TG Chicago: they would say that ‘many Irish arrived here poor as snakes & did well, etc. etc.’, completely leaving unsaid that Irish could intermarry into rich WASP families & also pass as non-Irish, etc. etc.

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